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7 Biblical Purposes for Speaking in Tongues

Speaks mysteries directly to God

“For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.” (1 Corinthians 14:2)

One of the most powerful things about speaking in tongues is it is a spiritual language that no one can understand, but God alone. Some people believe, however, that speaking in tongues is a natural known language, but this isn’t the case.

The verse above clearly says that if you speak in a tongue you DO NOT speak to men, for NO ONE understands you. (Related article: Is Speaking in Tongues a Real Language? Or is it Gibberish?).

Speaking in tongues is for you and God, it is a personal language between only you two. It is where your spirit communicates with His Spirit directly through spoken mysteries. It is a simple way for you to draw nearer to Him through a gift that He has given you.

Edification for the speaker

“But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:3-4)

The Bible says when we speak in tongues, our spirit prays, but our mind is unfruitful (1 Corinthians 14:14). So, when we talk about being edified by praying in the Spirit, we aren’t talking about our mind being edified. It is our spirit that receives the edification.

So, what are the benefits of the spirit being edified?

The book of Jude has the answer. Jude reveals to us that we build ourselves up in our most holy faith and that we keep ourselves in the love of God.

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude verses 20-21)

Tongues help us enter into rest

“In the law it is written: “With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me,” says the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 14:21).

Paul is quoting this scripture from Isaiah 28:11-12, and he’s using this verse to explain speaking in tongues. Let’s read Isaiah 28:11-12 to better understand this gift.

“For with stammering lips and another tongue. He will speak to this people, To whom He said, “This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest, ”And, “This is the refreshing”; Yet they would not hear.”

Did you catch that? Speaking in tongues is the rest and refreshing by which God causes us to rest. The Bible tells us there is a rest for God’s people in Hebrews chapters 3-4 and that we are to be diligent to enter that rest. Speaking in tongues is a tool God has provided to enter into that rest.

Why is tongues a tool to enter into the rest of God?

Because the New Covenant, the Covenant we are under, is a Covenant of the Spirit. Paul said,

“our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

Paul also said in that same chapter that it is the Spirit of God who transforms us.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is  liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

The New Covenant is a covenant of the Spirit, and the Spirit is the one who transforms us into the image of God. So when we pray in the Spirit (a.k.a speaking in tongues) we are yielding to the Holy Spirit to do his work in us, which allows us to rest because we aren’t doing the work of sanctification, He is.

[Related article: How to Walk/Live in the Spirit (Complete Guide)]

Equal to prophecy when interpreted

The scripture reveals that speaking in tongues is equivalent to prophecy when it is paired with the interpretation of tongues.

“I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.” (1 Corinthians 14:5).

So the same amount of revelation that can come from a prophecy can come through speaking in tongues if it is interpreted. But how do we receive the interpretation? Paul tells us how in 1 Corinthians 14:13.

“Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.”

As you pray in the spirit, ask God for the interpretation of what you are speaking. The Holy Spirit will give you the interpretation, and you’ll understand the mysteries that you spoke in the Spirit.

Not only can you receive the interpretation of your own tongue but it is also possible to understand the speaking of someone else’s tongue. This is why Paul says,

“If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.” (1 Corinthians 14:27-28)

So as you can hopefully see through this scripture, we can interpret our own tongues as well as interpret others, and vice versa. Which is an amazing way for the church to come together and receive revelation from God!

Not only is this for the church as a whole, but it is also for our own personal lives.

Praying in Tongues is a way to receive personal revelation

So just like speaking in tongues is equivalent to prophecy when it is interpreted by yourself or someone else, it is also a great way to receive personal revelation.

Do you remember Isaiah 28? It was the passage we looked at to understand how speaking in tongues is a tool from God to give us rest.

Well, Isaiah 28 also mentions that speaking in tongues is a way to receive revelation from God.

Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little. ”For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people” (Isaiah 28:9-11).

We see in this passage that speaking in tongues is a way God speaks, and a way He teaches. God always teaches through steps, and His teachings always build upon each other. This is what is meant by “precept upon precept, line upon line.” The New Testament also reveals this.

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).  

Did you notice that Holy Spirit teaches by comparing spiritual things with spiritual things? This is a New Testament way of saying “here a little, there a little.”

This is why when you begin to understand God’s Word your mind sees multiple scriptures to understand a concept. I don’t know about you, but when I receive revelation about God through His Word, I see multiple scriptures at once that all explain a specific topic.

The Holy Spirit will give me multiple verses of scripture that fit perfectly together. This usually happens to me more often when I’m speaking in tongues continually.

In short, speaking in tongues, paired with the interpretation of tongues, is a great way to receive revelation from God. The apostle Paul probably had more revelation of God than anyone, and he said “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18). I don’t think that was a coincidence.

Speaking in tongues is praise and thanksgiving

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. 

“Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.” (1 Corinthians 14:14-17).

In the passage above, the apostle Paul is explaining who speaking in Tongues is for. Speaking in tongues is for the believer that is doing the speaking, not for the people that around them, unless the tongues is interpreted (1 Corinthians 14:4-5).

Paul is showing here that in the church speaking in tongues should be interpreted for the edification of the church. However, we do see Paul reveal a purpose for speaking in tongues in this passage.

The apostle Paul says that when we speak in tongues we are blessing with the Spirit and we are “indeed giving thanks well.” So speaking in tongues is a form of praise and thanksgiving.

We also see a glimpse into the apostle Paul’s prayer life. He says,

“I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with my understanding. I will sing with the Spirit, and I will sing with the understanding.” (1 Corinthians 14:15)

“I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all.” (1 Corinthians 14:18)

Speaking in tongues was a huge part of the apostle Paul’s prayer life. So much so that he said that he speaks in tongues more than the whole church at Corinth.

In his private prayer life, Paul would switch between worship in the Spirit and worship with the understanding, prayer in the Spirit, and prayer with the understanding. This is a huge tool to deepen our prayer lives.

(Related articles: Praying in the Spirit vs. Praying in Tongues: What is the Difference? and Singing in the Spirit: What it is & How to do it)

Speaking in tongues can be the initial sign of receiving the Holy Spirit

Every time we look through the New Testament we find that when someone received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues shortly after.

Acts 2:1-4 is our first example:

“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Notice ALL OF THEM were filled with the Holy Spirit and ALL OF THEM spoke in other tongues. Now, remember, there were 120 people in that upper room (Acts 1:15) and this passage says that all 120 were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.

Our second example is when Peter was called to Cornelius’ house to preach the Gospel to him and all his household in Acts chapter 10.

“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-46).

Again, everyone there that received the Holy Spirit spoke in tongues. [Related article: Is Speaking in Tongues for Everyone? (Biblical Answer)]

Also, notice the believers who came with Peter were astonished, and they knew the gentiles received the gift the Holy Spirit “for they heard them speak in tongues.” It was the gentiles speaking in tongues that convinced the circumcised believers that the gentiles truly had received the gift of the Spirit.

Acts 19:1-6 reveals the same thing. The apostle Paul came to Ephesus, saw some disciples, and talked with them about receiving the Holy Spirit. Since they had not received the Spirit yet, he “laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.” The very next verse says, “Now the men were twelve in all,” so twelve out of twelve spoke in tongues when they received the Spirit.

Every time a believer receives the baptism in the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts we see them speak in tongues shortly after.

If you want to know more about baptism in the Holy Spirit see Baptism in the Holy Spirit (In-Depth Study) or you can check out my article that explains how you can receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Speak in Tongues.

Although it is common to speak in tongues when you first receive the Holy Spirit it does not happen this way all the time. Many times there can be hindrances to speaking in tongues that we struggle with, which may cause us to not yield to Holy Spirit right away.

A good article to read if you are struggling with this, or if you just want to understand this more is Can you have the Holy Spirit Without Speaking In Tongues? (Answered). Enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed this article and that it helped you in your walk with God.

God bless you all!

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